Yearly, over 200 million people are infected with Malaria. Of these 200 million, between 660,000 and 1.2 million will be killed by the disease. This mosquito-borne infectious disease, prevalent in tropical and subtropical environments, has been a menace on many Sub-Saharan African and Asian countries. Despite the need, an effective vaccine has yet to be released to combat malaria. The most prevalent current prevention measures focus on the prevention of mosquito bites through means of mosquito nets, insect repellants, or insecticides. This may soon change, however, as a new vaccine is set to be filed with the European Medicines Agency in 2014. If approved, this promising new vaccine could be set to use in early 2016.
The vaccine, named RTS,S, has undergone major trials in 11 African trial sites. In these trials, 15,000 children were tested. Of these 15,000, half were between ages 6 to 12 weeks, while the other half were between ages 5 and 17 months. Half of the children in each group were administered the vaccine. The other half were given a placebo. Both groups continued to practice standard malaria prevention procedures (such as using insect repellent and sleeping under bed nets.) Results show that the Vaccine was most effective when administered to children in the older group, with a 56 percent decrease in Malaria development. The younger group showed a decrease of 31 percent.
This data displays the great potential of the vaccine. With an average efficacy of around 50 percent, the vaccine could potentially save thousands of lives every year. It is for this reason that GlaxoSmithKline has decided to seek the vaccine’s approval in the near future. In the meantime, other potential Malaria prevention methods are entering trial. Of these, among the most promising include transmission-blocking vaccines. These vaccines would potentially produce human antibodies that would be transferred to feeding mosquitoes and, in theory, block development of the malaria parasite.
There are some worries surrounding RTS,S. The efficacy saw a slight drop 18 months after administration. While this is not uncommon, it does bring to question how effective the vaccine will be as the children age. GSK plans to track the results of the older age group for a total of around 41 months on average, hopefully providing answers by the vaccine’s release date. Also, the trials notable confinement to Africa brings to question how effective the vaccine will be in other affected environments.
Click Here for more information regarding RTS,S, or read this informative Newscientist article.